Libertatem Magazine

Transgender Persons and the COVID 19 Pandemic

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Introduction:

We live in a society where sexual orientation and gender roles are deeply oriented. Transgender people face discrimination on a variety of issues. The discrimination starts from the very initial stage of their life. They were expelled from home at a very early age because society does not consider them as their part. Due to this, they did not only deny access to key social goods, such as employment, proper education, health care, and family support, but it also marginalizes them in society and makes them one of the vulnerable groups which are at the risk of socially excluded. Due to COVID 19, the problems they faced are amplified, already vulnerable as don’t have access to proper health. India is home to the largest number of HIV-positive transgender, as their immune system are weak they are more vulnerable to this virus than other genders. On the other side, they are also the neglected part of society so in the time when the acceptable gender of society doesn’t get access to the healthcare facility, as transgender already neglected one has a very low chance to get access to treatment. 

Definition of “Transgender”:

Transgender is an umbrella term that describes “individuals whose gender identity or gender expression doesn’t match the gender identity commonly experienced by those of the individuals’ natal sex”. They do not imply any specific form of sexual orientation, they may identify as homosexual, heterosexual, asexual, bisexual, pansexual. The term transgender is also different from intersex, a general term that describes people born with physical sex characteristics, including sex hormones, chromosomes, gonads, or genitals, that doesn’t seem to fit in the definitions of male and female bodies. The opposite of transgender is cisgender, which describes a person whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth. Transgender congruence measures the degree to which individuals accept their genuine identity what they are and are comfortable with its external appearance. But some individuals are suffered from distress due to a mismatch between their gender identity and their sex assigned at birth, called Gender dysphoria. 

Impact of Covid 19 on Transgender Persons:

Covid 19 creates havoc in everybody’s life, there is no one whose life is not affected, Transgenders are also not the exception to this. The discrimination and social distancing faced by Transgender is decade-old, during covid the situation gets worse. As most of the population face difficulties due to lockdown, Transgenders also face livelihood crisis because they are unable to earn money as their main source of income included badhai (ceremonial collections by dancing and singing on auspicious occasions like marriages or childbirth), dahnada (sex work), or begging (in the train or on the highway Toll Booth). As they are expelled from their family at a very small age they did not receive proper education and due to lack of education, they are forced to depend on undignified work. 

During covid, access to get the medical facilities becomes very difficult. In hospitals, the bed is limited in comparison to the patients are reports are threefold. It is a challenging task to procure even the basic healthcare treatment. India is one of the most affected countries around the world. During all this mayhem, anxiety is surrounded everywhere, this transgender community somewhere got ignored. They are more prone to catch an infection due to a large number of people lived together, weaker immune systems, etc. India is also the home of a large number of HIV+ Transgender persons. As all the healthcare system prioritized the treatment of covid, antiretroviral therapy (HIV medicine) is facing delays and postponements which has worsened their fear, making them prone to depression. A small, but not a trivial share of transgenders are also going through Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) that face challenges in continuing their treatment during these hard times. Sudden stoppage of Progesterone and Estradiol can lead to mood swings, depression, and anxiety. Irrespective of the hormone, sudden stoppage of HRT would also cause ‘Gender Dysphoria’ where the individual will suffer from mental conflict between two genders. The Indian health system is already left behind in mental health surveillance and accessibility. The already negligible TGNC-specific paths available to seek mental healthcare have shrunk for worse during this pandemic. This is prompting to disturb circumstances of mental health breakdown among the transgender community.

Legal Protection Provided to Transgender Persons:

In 2014 NALSA vs Union of Indiathe apex court declared that the Transgender people should be recognized as the ‘third gender’, also affirmed that all fundamental rights provided under the Constitution of India will be equally applicable to them, and also gave them the right to self-identification of their gender as male, female or third gender. 

In 2017, Justice (Retd) K S Puttaswamy vs Union of India, the supreme court ruled that the Right to Privacy is intrinsic to life and liberty and thus, comes under Article 21 of the Constitution which grants the Right to Life and Liberty. The right to Privacy was also extended to every individual irrespective of their sex and gender. 

In 2018, Navtej Singh Johar v Union of India is this seminal judgment the supreme court of India decriminalized consensual homosexuality by striking off parts of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and excluding consensual homosexual sex between adults from its ambit. It further held that Section 377 violates Articles 14, 15, 16, and 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. It declared that in India every individual irrespective of their gender identity and sexual orientation has the right to live with autonomy, dignity and make personal and private without State interference.

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019:

 It defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth. It includes trans-men and trans-women, gender-queers, persons with intersex variations, and persons with socio-cultural identities, such as hijra and kinnar. It defines Intersex variations as a person who at birth shows variation in his or her primary sexual characteristics, external genitalia, chromosomes, or hormones from the normative standard of the male or female body.

Prohibition against discrimination: Any person who is found to be captivating a transgender person into bonded labor, denying the right of public passage to a transgender person, expelling a transgender from his/her place of residence, causing verbal, sexual, physical, emotional, and economic abuse, can be punished with imprisonment of not less than six months, that can extend up to two years. The bill has a provision that gives transgender the right of residence with parents and immediate family members.

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020:

A certificate of identity recognizes a person as transgender and will be issued by a district magistrate. The application given for a certificate of identity must include an affidavit and a psychologist’s report. To deal with the issue of any discrimination or harassment with Transgender persons, all educational institutions must have a committee. States will be responsible for “timely prosecution of individuals” charged under Section 18 of the Act which proscribes offenses against the transgender community and penalties therein. The offenses would be punishable with imprisonment for six months up to two years, in addition to a fineTransgender Protection Cell will be set up by the state government under the governance of the District Magistrate and DGP to keep track of cases related to offenses against transgender persons and implement Section 18.

Conclusion:

As Supreme Court through judgment and the government through parliament bring laws to help or support the transgender people but these reforms are not fruitful until we as a society don’t respect the rights of these people. Radical changes in the institutions and structure of society have to be encouraged where acceptance and tolerance are the rules instead of exclusion and intolerance and where everyone, irrespective of their person, cherishes their right and has the efficacious remedy to enforce their rights by way of laid uniform mechanism. We have to motivate them for education by which they become self-independent and become able to fight for their rights. In the pandemic time, it is the duty of everyone, government or society, to support the transgender community in the fight against Covid-19 by providing them access to basic healthcare services, food security, etc.

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